News 2017

Programming Languages & Verification

Maria Christakis receives Facebook Faculty Research Award

December 2017
Maria Christakis, an MPI-SWS faculty member, has received a Facebook Faculty Research Award. The award is given in recognition of Maria's work on combining static and dynamic program analysis, which is of particular relevance to Facebook as they are developing sophisticated program analysis tools to handle real-world code.

Two MPI-SWS faculty awarded DFG grants

December 2017
Two MPI-SWS faculty members have received 3-year research grants from DFG, the German Research Organization.

Eva Darulova has received a single-PI DFG grant entitled "Automated Rigorous Verification and Synthesis of Approximations." Björn Brandenburg has received a DFG grant entitled "RT-Proofs: Formal proofs for real-time systems." This award is for a collaborative grant, with co-PIs at INRIA (Grenoble), Verimag (Grenoble), ONERA (Toulouse), and TU Braunschweig (Germany).

Both projects are actively recruiting doctoral students. Interested students can apply online.

Automated Rigorous Verification and Synthesis of Approximations

Computing resources are fundamentally limited and sometimes an exact solution may not even exist. Thus, when implementing real-world systems, approximations are inevitable, as are the errors introduced by them. The magnitude of errors is problem-dependent but higher accuracy generally comes at a cost in terms of memory, energy or runtime, effectively creating an accuracy-efficiency tradeoff. To take advantage of this tradeoff, we need to ensure that the computed results are sufficiently accurate, otherwise we risk disastrously incorrect results or system failures. Unfortunately, the current way of programming with approximations is mostly manual, and consequently costly, error prone and often produces suboptimal results.

The goal of this project is to develop an end-to-end system which approximates numerical programs in an automated and trustworthy fashion. The programmer will be able to write exact high-level code and our `approximating compiler' will generate an efficient implementation satisfying a given accuracy specification. In order to achieve this vision, we will develop novel sound techniques for verifying the accuracy of approximate numerical programs, as well as new synthesis approaches to generate such approximations automatically.

RT-Proofs: Formal proofs for real-time systems

Real-time systems, i.e., computer systems subject to stringent timing constraints, are at the heart of most modern safety-critical technologies, including automotive systems, avionics, robotics, and factory automation, to name just a few prominent domains in which incorrect timing can have potentially catastrophic consequences. To assure the always-correct operation of such systems, i.e., to make sure that they always react in a timely fashion even in a worst-case scenario, rigorous validation efforts are required prior to deployment. However, establishing that all timing constraints are met is far from trivial --- and requires sophisticated analysis techniques --- because software timing varies in complex and difficult to predict ways, e.g., due to scheduling delays, shared resources, or communication, even when executing on a dedicated processor. Unfortunately, the theoretical foundations of current analysis methods are not nearly as rock-solid as one might expect.

The key problem is that the state-of-the-art methods are backed by only informal or abbreviated proofs, which are typically difficult to understand, check, adapt, or reuse. As a result, there is a non-trivial risk of subtle, but fatal mistakes, either lingering in the published literature, or arising when combining results with unstated, inconsistent assumptions. And indeed, this is not just a hypothetical concern --- most famously, the timing analysis of the CAN real-time bus (widely deployed in virtually all modern cars) was refuted in 2007, 13 years after initial publication. Similarly, other lesser-known examples of incorrect worst-case analyses abound in the literature, including off-by-one errors, incorrect generalizations, and even claims that are simply wrong. Worse, even if the underlying theory is indeed flawless, there is still no guarantee that it is actually implemented correctly in the toolchains used in practice. In short, the state of the art in the analysis of safety-critical real-time systems leaves a lot to be desired --- informal "pen and paper" proofs are simply inadequate.

There is a better way: timing analysis results should be formally proved, machine-checkable, and independently verifiable. To this end, the RT-proofs project will lay the foundations for the computer-assisted verification of schedulability analysis results by (i) formalizing foundational real-time concepts using the Coq proof assistant and (ii) mechanizing proofs of busy-window-based end-to-end latency analysis, the analysis approach of greatest practical relevance (e.g., used by SymTA/S). Additionally, we will (iii) demonstrate with a practical prototype how trust in a vendor's toolchain can be established by certifying the produced analysis results (rather than the tool itself). Leading by example, RT-proofs will fundamentally raise the level of rigor, to the benefit of the academic community, tool vendors, and real-time systems engineers in practice.

MPI-SWS researchers win OOPSLA 2017 Distinguished Paper award

October 2017
David Swasey, Deepak Garg, and Derek Dreyer have won a Distinguished Paper award at the 2017 ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications (OOPSLA 2017) for their paper "Robust and Compositional Verification of Object Capability Patterns."

Distinguished Paper awards are given to about 10% of papers at OOPSLA.

MPI-SWS wins best-paper awards at PLDI and ECOOP

June 2017
MPI-SWS researchers made a very strong showing at PLDI and ECOOP in Barcelona this year.  They received two Best Paper Awards, one from PLDI and one from ECOOP, for the following two papers:

PLDI 2017: Repairing Sequential Consistency in C/C++11, by Ori Lahav, Viktor Vafeiadis, Jeehoon Kang, Chung-Kil Hur, and Derek Dreyer.

ECOOP 2017: Strong Logic for Weak Memory: Reasoning About Release-Acquire Consistency in Iris, by Jan-Oliver Kaiser, Hoang-Hai Dang, Derek Dreyer, Ori Lahav, and Viktor Vafeiadis.

In addition, another PLDI best paper award went to the paper "Bringing the Web Up to Speed with WebAssembly", which was presented by Andreas Rossberg, former member of the Foundations of Programming group, who is now a senior engineer at Google.  WebAssembly is the result of an unprecedented collaboration between engineers at Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Apple to develop a new portable low-level byte code language to replace JavaScript as a target language for web development.

Maria Christakis to join MPI-SWS as tenure-track faculty

June 2017
Maria Christakis joins the institute as a tenure-track faculty member, effective Oct 16, 2017. Maria’s goal is to develop theoretical foundations and practical tools for building more reliable and usable software and increasing developer productivity. She is mostly interested in software engineering, programming languages, and formal methods. Maria particularly likes investigating topics in automatic test generation, software verification, program analysis, and empirical software engineering. Her tools and techniques explore novel ways of writing, specifying, verifying, testing, and debugging programs in order to make them more robust while at the same time improving the user experience.

Maria joins MPI-SWS from the University of Kent, England, where she is a Lecturer at the School of Computing. She was previously a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research Redmond. Maria received her Ph.D. from the Department of Computer Science of ETH Zurich and was awarded with the ETH medal and the EAPLS Best PhD Dissertation Award. She completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens, Greece.

Principles of Cyber-Physical Systems Course at TU Kaiserslautern

April 2017
Sadegh Soudjani is teaching Principles of Cyber-physical Systems at the University of Kaiserslautern in Summer 2017.

The course meets Tuesdays 11:45-13:15 and Thursdays 10:00-11:30 in 11-260.

Advanced Automata Theory Course at TU Kaiserslautern

April 2017
Rupak Majumdar and Daniel Neider are co-teaching Advanced Automata Theory at the University of Kaiserslautern in the Summer 2017 semester.

The course meets Tuesdays 08:15-09:45 in room 48-210 and Wednesdays 13:45-15:15 in room 46-280 on the University of Kaiserslautern campus.